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Councilmania

September 11, 2008
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On the agenda for Sept. 8

Bill 08-0193 Valet Parking: Would recast the city’s laws regarding valet parking, require valet parking operators to be licensed, establish standards of operation for valet parking.

The Read: This 28-page bill is longer than last year’s valet-parking ordinance by three pages. Last year’s effort was introduced by Mayor Sheila Dixon in September and withdrawn in late October before its public hearing. Valet parking–and the behavior of the parking attendants, and the traffic generated by restaurants offering valets–has for several years been an issue for the residents of Little Italy. The new bill seeks to establish strict regulations for valet-parking operations, spelling out everything from hours of operation to number of valets required. The changes in the new bill appear subtle. Consider section 14-5(3):

Old bill-14-5
(3) THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IN HIS OR HER DISCRETION, MAY APPROVE A
VALET PARKING PLAN SUBMITTED BY THE OPERATOR THAT ALLOWS THE USE OF
PUBLIC RIGHTS-OF-WAY FOR PARKING.

New bill-14-5
(3) WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE DIRECTOR OF TRANSPORTATION, THE EXECUTIVE
DIRECTOR MAY APPROVE A VALET PARKING PLAN SUBMITTED BY THE OPERATOR
THAT ALLOWS THE USE OF PUBLIC RIGHTS-OF-WAY FOR PARKING, SUBJECT TO THE
ISSUANCE OF PERMITS OTHERWISE REQUIRED FOR THE USE OF PUBLIC RIGHTS-OF WAY.

Bill 08-0194 Parking for Disabled Person and Helpers – Temporary Disabilities: This would allow people who are temporarily disabled to establish temporary handicapped-only parking spaces near their homes.

The read: First District Councilman James Kraft, who sponsored the bill, acknowledges the shortage of parking in neighborhoods throughout the city. “It’s hard for people to give up spaces on a permanent basis,” he says. “But people who have knee-replacement surgery and other kinds of surgery, who need to park close to their homes, need a temporary solution. This would allow them to apply for and get a three-month or a six-month pass, and the neighbors will realize that it’s not forever.”

Bill 08-0179 Parking Tax – Tax Rate: this would increase the tax people pay to park downtown in a garage or lot from 12 to 15.5 percent, and eliminate the current flat tax of $15 per month for monthly parkers. The increased collections will go to a new free shuttle-bus system.

The read: “We want to re-institute a shuttle system in downtown Baltimore,” says 8th District Councilwoman Helen Holton. The proposed shuttle’s routs have not yet been fixed, but she says it will extend beyond downtown. “It will be a free service, a free service, so the money from the parking tax will be solely dedicated to the shuttle.” She says the tax increase will generate about $5 million per year to run the shuttles. The tax also will “eliminate the two-tier parking system that we have in place,” in which monthly parkers pay $15 and daily or hourly parkers pay 12.5 percent.

Bill 08-0195 Property Tax Credits – Newly Constructed Buildings: This would stretch out the deadline for people who buy new or renovated houses to apply for a tax break that could save them thousands per year, and let some who have already missed the deadline to reapply for the break.

The read: Jim Kraft (1st District) says a lot of his constituents never learn about the tax break until long after the 90-day deadline. “And so they come down and apply and the Finance Department says ‘tough luck.’ These are the people that we’re trying to get in [the city] to grow our tax base.” Under the bill, a person who’d bought a place since July of 2007 would be able to apply for up to a year after the passage of the bill. It will “help people who were harmed through no effort of their own,” Kraft says.

Resolution 08-0062R Informational Hearing – Baltimore City Public School System – Anonymous Call Hotline: The resolution invites Baltimore Public Schools Superintendent Andres Alonzo, the school police, and the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology to brief the council on the feasibility of a school-violence tips hotline.

The Read: Violence and threats in the public schools are still an issue, despite what the resolution describes as progress and a better working relationship between school officials, school police, and transportation officials. Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says the proposed hotline would be “fully integrated into the 311 system,” so students, parents, teachers and others can report direct threats “so the most troubled students can get the help they need.”

Next City Council Meeting: Sept 15 at 5 p.m.

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